Zombie Daily Mail Article On MMR

October 5, 2011 at 6:56 pm (Anti-Vaccination) (, , )

Here’s something that’s puzzling me: a Daily Mail article from several years ago is showing on a Google search for wakefield mmr daily mail as being just two hours old.

This article keeps being brought up for discussion in the various corners of the internet where I tend to hang out. Curiously, the article has no publication date. It was discussed on JREF and other forums in 2010 (including the Skeptic forum). In January 2011, Liz Ditz described this as “the article that won’t die”. So, how do we kill this zombie article? And how and why is it being reanimated?

I don’t know how to find out how and why it is being brought back to life, so I started by emailing the Daily Mail themselves to see if they could shed any light on it:

How come your shite, scaremongering article “Scientists fear MMR link to autism” is showing on google as being two hours old, when it’s actually several years old?

The reason I’m so curious is that it’s been brought up for discussion yet again on another skeptic forum – prompting a fisking from JQH (stop giggling at the back – I said fisking).

I’m not sure how to kill this zombie, but in the meantime I will be linking to a Bad Science article using the keywords “wakefield mmr daily mail“. Perhaps that will help?

Update, 21:19, 5/10/2011:

Hat-tip to Konomios for the following…

List of articles published on the same day: I clicked on five articles at random and they were all datestamped.

Check out how many articles on Wakefield and vaccination carry no datestamp: linky. I clicked on four – MMR – The Truth, The unheeded warnings, MMR vaccine side-effects ‘not fully tested’, and MMR doctors disown jab study – none were datestamped.


[Hat-tip also to Little Waster for getting all het up about the lack of datestamping. His irritation helped to motivate me to write this.]

Update, 21:38, 5/10/2011:

I’ve sent another email…

Your other articles from the same day appear to be datestamped OK. Other articles on Wakefield (relevant to MMR) appear not to be. Do you have any comment on this?



Update, 16:16, 7/10/2011

(1) I’ve added some news (including the Mail’s reply) as comments. Further updates will appear in the comments section below.

(2) Another tip of the hat – this time to Josephine Jones.

Update, 16:25, 14/7/12

Here’s a reference to “new evidence” of a link between MMR and autism in a discussion on Amazon: link (as the posts in this discussion have date stamps, I can see that this is from 8th July 2011 – I thought I should point out that this is not news, it is in fact a year old). It was also linked to on Phoenix Rising in 2010, but the PR thread has disappeared/been archived/whatever.

Here’s the Daily Mail article it’s copied and pasted from: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-132515/New-evidence-shows-MMR-link-autism.html (without attribution). It seems to be from 9th August 2002: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sitemap-articles-day~2002-08-09.xml and it looks like it hasn’t been modified since then. But it has no date stamp and it’s the first result on Google for mmr autism daily mail: http://www.google.co.uk/search?q=mmr+autism+daily+mail&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a

There’s also this on the first page of results for that Google search: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-123482/New-MMR-link-autism.html. I expect date stamps will soon be added to these two articles. As the Mail told me in October last year:

We add the publication dates whenever these instances are flagged up to avoid confusion, as has clearly happened in this case.

Thank you for bringing this to our attention.

Update, 14:35, 17/7/12

I emailed the Mail on the evening of Friday 13th July and they have not responded to my email or added date stamps to the articles I flagged up.

Update, 18:04, 24/8/12

Six weeks later… no response from the Daily Mail to my emails and no publication dates added to the articles. Either the Daily Mail did not receive my emails or they weren’t being strictly truthful when they wrote “we add the publication dates whenever these instances are flagged up” in their email to me last October.


  1. Mamey Jamey (@fiatpanda) said,

    The problem with the really big turds is that you can never quite flush them away. They keep floating back to the top.

    I know this doesn’t really help – I just wanted to post a poo analogy.

  2. jdc325 said,

    Thanks – I welcome your Daily Mail/poo analogies. Feel free to post again if you have more up your sleeve.

  3. martin said,

    mmmm sleeve turds.

    one day i too will be writing articles that are just so classical that they will be popular for ever and I shall be rich and famous and women will – o wait, sorry, wrong dram

  4. Alan Henness (@zeno001) said,

    Hey! But this blog post appears as the 13th hit on a clean Google search (ie in an incognito browser window) for “wakefield mmr daily mail”! Congratulations!

  5. jdc325 said,

    I’ve taken a screengrab of the page as it stands (i.e., without a datestamp) and am now monitoring the page on changedetection. I’ll let you know if it changes and I’ll be sure to post an update if the Mail reply to my emails.

  6. jdc325 said,

    @martin – surely that’s a dream everyone has?

    @Alan – heh, thanks. Time for me to do some vanity googling now I think.

  7. jdc325 said,

    One of the first links on google for those keywords is this from Enemies of Reason: link. It includes this brazen bit of bullshit from Paul Dacre:

    There’s a bit of an urban myth that The Daily Mail was against the MMR triple jab.

    O RLY?

  8. jdc325 said,

    I’ve complained to the PCC. If the Fail want me to think that the article is new, then I shall react as if it is.

    The PCC ask for an explanation of how the code has been breached:

    “New American research shows that there could be a link between the controversial MMR triple vaccine and autism and bowel disease in children.”
    The research isn’t new, there isn’t a link, and the vaccine isn’t controversial.

    They also ask which clause(s) of the code you are complaining under:

    1 (i) The press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures.


  9. notso worried said,

    You could always worry less about this and just go outside in the sunshine rather than festering over something so trivial!

  10. jdc325 said,

    @notso worried

    Obvious troll is obvious.

  11. jdc325 said,

    I waited almost two days for the Mail to respond to my emails, but heard nothing. I emailed them for a third time, mentioning that I’d complained to the PCC, and they replied within four minutes. There’s probably a lesson here…

  12. jdc325 said,

    Here’s the Mail’s response. They’ve got a couple of things wrong. I’m now considering how to reply…

    Thanks for your inquiry in relation to the MailOnline article on MMR.

    While conspiracy theories about this article are all very entertaining, there is in fact a simple technical explanation for this story appearing on a Google search this week.

    During MailOnline’s 2008 relaunch hundreds of thousands of existing articles were migrated onto the new site and in some cases date stamps were lost. The article in question was first published on May 28, 2006. This would explain why your search of ‘five articles at random’ this week on our site returned results all displaying dates. It would also explain why the four Wakefield articles you searched didn’t display a date because they were all created prior to 2008 – in fact, in 2003, 2002 and 2004 respectively (you only provide evidence of three in your article).

    We add the publication dates whenever these instances are flagged up to avoid confusion, as has clearly happened in this case.

    Thank you for bringing this to our attention.

    I’m also going to proceed with my PCC complaint if the PCC will allow me to.

  13. jdc325 said,

    I’ve replied:


    “This would explain why your search of ‘five articles at random’ this week on our site returned results all displaying dates.” This isn’t what was found… what was actually found was that ‘five articles at random’ were chosen from the same day as the old MMR article – and found to contain datestamps. Why would all the articles I checked from the same day as the MMR piece have datestamps but not the MMR piece? Please address the actual findings and not your misreading of them. There was no search of five random articles published “this week” – there was a random sampling of articles published on the same day as the MMR piece.

    “We add the publication dates whenever these instances are flagged up to avoid confusion, as has clearly happened in this case.” The publication date was not added in the first 43 hours following the piece being flagged up. The publication date was added after you were notified that I’d made a PCC complaint. Would you care to comment on this?

    “While conspiracy theories about this article are all very entertaining, there is in fact a simple technical explanation for this story appearing on a Google search this week.” I didn’t put forward a conspiracy theory at any time during my correspondence with the Mail – I simply noted the facts and asked for comment.


  14. Mike D said,

    They’ve fixed it!

    Now it shows as . . . 16 hours old.

  15. jdc325 said,

    Heh, yeah – it’s not ideal but there has been some small progress.

    The article still shows as being recent on a google search (“7 hours ago”, as I write this), but if you click through it does now show a datestamp between the headline and the main body: 28/05/2006. So the Mail / MoS have now taken some action. I’ve also put in a complaint to the PCC about the content of the article being misleading. It was only when I made my PCC complaint and informed the Mail of this that the datestamp was added, so the lesson I’ve taken from this is to complain to the PCC first and then contact the Mail.

  16. PCC Upholds Daily Mail’s Right To Distort « Stuff And Nonsense said,

    […] I wrote about the zombie Daily Mail article on MMR. I made a complaint to the PCC about the article in question, and have now received notice of their […]

  17. Calm down jcd said,

    I have heard first hand some unpleasant side effects from mmr jabs. I think good on the daily mail for giving another side of the story. If theres anything dodgy I’d like to know! And jdc there are 2 sides to every story, your a wee bit bigoted I thibk!

  18. Cybertiger said,

    @Calm down jcd

    There is really nothing wee about bigoted turds like jcd523 … or that huge ‘Alan Henness’ bigot.

  19. jdc325 said,

    Hello C / Calm down jcd,

    “I have heard first hand some unpleasant side effects from mmr jabs.”
    Really? First hand hearsay? Forgive me if I find that less impressive than the numerous large, carefully conducted studies into the safety of MMR. There are some minor side effects of the vaccine and some more serious, but rare side effects. The serious side effects of the vaccine are far rarer than the serious complications of the diseases it protects against.

  20. Cybertiger said,

    More tedious cobblers from jcd352! Give me strength ….

  21. jdc325 said,

    Perhaps rather than simply stating your position, you might like to explain it. And, where relevant, supply evidence to support it?

    Otherwise, why should anyone listen to you Cybertiger?

  22. Earnest said,

    Good post. I learn something new and challenging on sites I stumbleupon everyday.
    It’s always interesting to read through articles from other authors and use something from their sites.

  23. Harpocrates Speaks: Matthew Mientka, MMR, Autism and Lazy Journalism said,

    […] on September 8, 2002. Okay. Maybe Mr. Mientka didn't know this about the Mail. Yeah others have pointed out this habit of the Fail Mail, but, I was still willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. After […]

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